Farming on the Coffs Coast is up for discussion

A DISCUSSION paper outlining how Coffs Harbour City Council might deal with land use conflicts associated with intensive agriculture will go on public display.

The matter was up for discussion at Thursday evening's council meeting with two councillors opposing the move.

Councillor George Cecato.
Councillor George Cecato. Trevor Veale

Councillors George Cecato and Michael Adendorff voted against putting the Intensive Plant Agriculture Discussion Paper on display, which includes a number of measures to mitigate conflict such as the requirement for development applications.

"I don't believe it's necessary or advisable to attempt to regulate this industry at a local government level; taking on a responsibility that is not ours and I think it would be to appease a few," Cr Adendorff said.

Cr Michael Adendorff.
Cr Michael Adendorff. Trevor Veale

Cr Sally Townley was quick to call a point of order in response, saying there were "huge concerns" for public and environmental health in relation to the industry based on studies and documented cases of off-farm impacts.

"So many people in the community are eagerly awaiting this and having their opportunity to comment.  Council has a key role to play in guiding agricultural development in area. 

"I look forward to getting heaps of submissions and staff have indicated they will look at going beyond the minimum 28-day exhibition period," Cr Townley said. 

The paper outlines the importance of agriculture to the economy of the region. 

Cr Sally Townley.
Cr Sally Townley. Trevor Veale

In 2015/16 the gross value of agriculture production in Coffs Harbour - Grafton was $250 million with blueberries making up a large proportion of this ($95million).

In developing the document council conducted community consultation, which highlighted a number of concerns associated with the rapid growth of the industry including adverse impacts on waterways, spray drift, excessive water use and illegal clearing of native vegetation.

Cr John Arkan voted to put the paper on exhibition and acknowledged the level of concern and potential for division in the community.

Cr John Arkan.
Cr John Arkan. Trevor Veale

"Let's not beat around the bush here - a large proportion of farmers are from an Indian background and it can became an 'us and them' issue," Cr Arkan said.

"If there's something wrong going on, let's not stop people having a chat about it and by doing that we will be better leaders. Let's go ahead with this," Cr Arkan said.

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